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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 14:51 EDT

FDA Makes New Rules On Sun Protection Products

June 14, 2011

Federal regulators provided new rules on Tuesday to require sunscreen manufacturers to test their products’ effectiveness against sun rays.

The Food and Drug Administration also announced stricter guidelines when describing how well their products block ultraviolet B rays.

Sunscreens that do not protect against both ultraviolet A and B rays and have a sun protection factor (SPF) below 15 will have to carry a warning label that reads:  “This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”

The FDA currently only requires testing for ultraviolet B rays that cause sunburn.  That is what the familiar SPF measure is based on.

However, new regulations require testing for more dangerous ultraviolet A rays, which can penetrate glass and are most commonly linked to wrinkles and skin cancer.

The FDA will also be prohibiting sunscreen marketing claims like “waterproof” and “sweatproof,” which the agency said “are exaggerations of performance.”

Products that protect against both UVA and UVB rays will be labeled “broad spectrum.”  The FDA says manufacturers must also phase out a four-star system currently used by some companies to rate UVA protections.

The new regulations will also standardize the older SPF protection rankings for UVB rays.  Only sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher can claim to lower the risk of cancer.

Big companies like Merck & Co. and Neutrogena Sunblocks from Johnson & Johnson already boast “broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection.”

Most dermatologists recommend a broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher every two hours while outside.

About 68,130 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with melanoma last year, which is the most dangerous form of skin cancer.  According to the National Cancer Institute, about $2 billion is spent treating the disease every year.

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